7 Prepare-Ahead Meal Hacks
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party with numerous tasks to complete before your guests arrive, or you simply want to come home from a long day and enjoy a delicious and healthy meal ready to heat up—or you find that you have all of your energy in the morning and by nightfall don’t have any desire to cook dinner—there are a number of recipes and food-preparation hacks that can be completed in the morning to make your evening dinner plans successful!
Any recipe that requires chopped vegetables is going to be healthy and yummy, but cutting up lots of pieces takes quite a bit of time.
A popular dish around the Hodge Lodge is balsamic-glazed, steak-wrapped veggies. It’s loaded with any vegetables I have on hand and is liked by both adults and kids. My favorite part of this recipe, however, is the fact that I can do all of the prep work in the morning, put some foil over the baking pan, and stick the steak back in the fridge for later cooking.
Even if your main dish doesn’t require chopping, if you plan to serve a salad, cut up your carrots, bell peppers, and cucumbers in the morning if you have time. You can throw the veggies together in a zip lock bag and shake them out over lettuce just before it’s time to eat.
Marinating your meat in the morning is a fantastic way to get every possible savory flavor out of your ingredients, and it’s best done in advance.
Chicken or Pork Souvlaki is a great example of how both chopping and marinating ahead of time can give you a company-worthy entrée. I recently attended a women’s retreat with my church, and the food served there absolutely spoiled us! The souvlaki was so tender and tasty that I have prepared it a few times since then.
Here’s a great recipe from myrecipes.com to try (the homemade tzatziki sauce can also be made the morning of).
Another recipe I mentioned in another article that requires some prep work but is worth every minute spent is Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa from yummyhealthyeasy.com. Both the marinade for the chicken and the avocado salsa can be prepped in the morning, and it makes for a super easy evening serve-up!
Serving a pasta dish? There’s no reason why you can’t cook your noodles ahead of time and simply reheat once you’re ready to throw in the shrimp, sauce, or vegetables. In fact, I served spaghetti for my mom’s birthday last week, and I opted to assemble the entire dish in the morning and put it in my slow cooker on low/warm. Dinner was done, and I had time to tidy up my house a bit too!
For my most formal dinner of the year, our Christmas party for friends, I attempt to cook the majority of the meal myself. While my last post was all about asking friends to contribute (and many of them do for this event), I still like to cook the majority of the actual dinner myself.
Cleaning my house and putting in a bit of extra time on my personal appearance for the big event means that every item I can prepare in advance is key. I love the Pioneer Woman’s Creamy Mashed Potato recipe because I can do all the preparation a day—or two—before and then put it in the oven for cooking the afternoon of the party. Finding dishes like this can make your time less frustrating on the day of your dinner event.
This suggestion probably goes without saying, but here it is anyway. There are innumerable recipes available online now that enable you to walk into your home after being out all day to the aroma of an appealing dish just waiting to be served up. If I know company is coming and I won’t have time to get it all done, I’ll search for a yummy slow-cooker recipe that will go with the effect I’m hoping to create for the evening. Here are some general categories to search and use:
Pulled pork, chicken, beef
Most desserts can be made the morning of and even the day before an event. Especially if you know that you’re going to have a busy day when company is expected in the evening, try to select a dessert that can be made ahead of time. Something labor-intensive that is best served fresh from the oven will likely add a bit of unnecessary stress.
Homemade desserts are becoming less common at social gatherings, so finding a few go-to recipes you can become comfortable with may be a very warm, sweet touch to your labor of love.
Chocolate chip cookies
Banana chocolate chip bread
These are also desserts my daughters are able to prepare on their own now that can be made in the morning or even the night before, thus allowing time for clean up before company arrives.
7. Set your table.
My mom taught me that setting your table and assembling any centerpieces can be done days in advance. If you only have one table, which will be used for breakfast, lunch, and the dinner to which you’ve invited guests, consider eating those other meals in a less formal place (the kitchen counter or outside patio for instance), so that you can have your place settings ready in advance.
What hacks have you found helpful to ensure a yummy dinner happens even on busy days? Please share them on our Facebook page post for this article.
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. (Ps. 128:1-2)
Susanna Hodge blogs at The Hodge Lodge at www.thehodgelodge.com.